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Monday, February 10, 2014

I Get It Jay

Jay Leno ended his 22 year run as the host of “The Tonight Show” last week.  I was moved by the heartfelt goodbye his cracking voice delivered to the audience.

“Boy, this is the hard part. I want to thank you, the audience. You folks have been just incredibly loyal. This is tricky. Ah, we wouldn’t be on the air without you people. Secondly, this has been the greatest 22 years of my life. 

I am the luckiest guy in the world. I got to meet presidents, astronauts, movie stars, it’s just been incredible. I got to work with lighting people who made me look better than I really am. I got to work with audio people who made me sound better than I really do. And I got to work with producers and writers and just all kinds of talented people who make me look a lot smarter than I really am.“

Jay Leno and I are, within a couple of weeks, exactly the same age.  He grew up in the 50’s and 60’s on the east coast and I on the west.  We graduated from college about the same time and perused careers that were only slightly related to our degrees.  He majored in speech therapy and I in physical science.

Jay started doing stand up comedy and got his break when he moved to Los Angeles and started writing for television.  I got my break when I joined the Air National Guard and went to Air Force pilot training.  From there we honed our respective crafts and eventually moved into a leadership position.  There were good times and not so good times both financially and in the relationship with our respective employers.  All of that seems to be of very little importance now. 

Billy Crystal, a long time friend and colleague of Jay’s, was his first guest when he took over “The Tonight Show” from Johnny Carson.  It was only fitting that he asked Crystal to be his final guest.  Billy brought with him his date planner from 40 years earlier.  It had Jay’s address and phone number of the apartment where he, Jay and the other young comics they knew would hang out together.  Their expressions gave away a flood of emotions.  That was the same reaction when I recently ran across paperwork from when I was a Boeing 727 Captain in the late 80’s.  In an instant all the memories came rushing back.

Next year when it’s my turn to hand over the controls, I will shamelessly plagiarize his words. I expect I will speak with a cracking voice.

Reflecting on the all the good things of a memorable career is the hard part.  I want to thank the people who put their trust in me and in my crew to get them to their destination safety.  You are the only reason I have had this wonderful job all these years.  With the exception of the time I have spent with my family, my time at the airline has been the most rewarding of my life.

I also feel like the luckiest man in the world.  I was able to travel to every corner of the globe and fly some of the most sophisticated and iconic airplanes every built.  Besides the consummate professionals I flew with, I got to work with technicians that made the airplanes incredibly reliable.   I got to work with Flight Attendants that made my job much easier than I deserved.  Most of all, I was the recipient of all the thankless efforts of the many people working behind the scenes to make me look smarter and more capable than I would ever be on my own.
Jay, I get it.